Uli Melchiorri: Austrian immigrant came to the United States to peruse the American dream

ulimelcBistro owners bring international flare to local cuisine

Claude Melchiorri,

Uli Melchiorri,

The South Carolina Lowcountry is renowned for its world-class golf courses, sparkling sand beaches and thriving arts scene, but one of the lesser-known factors that make the region – and Hilton Head Island in particular – such a great place to live and visit is the cultural diversity of the population.

A little more than 15 percent of Hilton Head residents were born in foreign countries – a rather large percentage, considering that foreign-born residents make up just 4.8 million of the state's overall population, according to the United States Census Bureau. Hailing from countries such as Germany, England, Ireland, Italy and Poland, Hilton Head's immigrant residents are part of what give the island its wonderful international flare.

Claude and Uli Melchiorri, owners of Claude and Uli's Signature Bistro, located in Moss Creek Village just before the bridges to Hilton Head, are two such immigrants who are lending their distinctive style and spirit to the Lowcountry melting pot.

Born in Normandy, France, Claude Melchiorri is a European-trained chef and restaurateur who has worked in some of the world's most prestigious restaurants, including Maxim's in Paris and the Connaught Hotel in London. He immigrated to the United States in 1971 and spent years in Orlando, Fla., and San Francisco – where he worked at another world-renowned restaurant, Ernie's – before settling in the Hilton Head area in 1994.

“In my younger age, I loved San Francisco, but in my older age, I love Hilton Head and I'm going to stay here,” Melchiorri said.

Hilton Head was where Melchiorri met and fell in love with his wife, Uli, an Austrian immigrant who came to the United States in 1984 to pursue the American dream. The couple owned a fine dining restaurant on Hilton Head until just a couple of years ago, when they sold the business and retired.

However, when people are as passionate about food as the Melchiorris are, it's hard to stay out of the kitchen. Finding that retirement just didn't suit them, the Melchiorris opened Claude and Uli's Signature Bistro and began serving up French-Continental classics. The charming bistro boasts fresh seafood and made-from-scratch sauces, and the Souffle Grand Marnier with chocolate sauce – which is handmade and must be ordered ahead – is a favorite of both regular customers and professional reviewers.

Unlike Claude, who came to Hilton Head after living in several other places in the United States, Uli immigrated to Hilton Head directly from Austria, and the diversity of the area is one of the biggest reasons she stayed and made the area her home. Thirty years later, being a part of such a diverse melting pot is still her favorite thing about living in the community.

“My favorite thing about the area is the international flare and the real mix of people who live here,” she said. “A lot of the people who live here have retired here from all over the country and all over the world.”

For more information on Claude and Uli's Signature Bistro, or to make a reservation, call 843-837-3336 or visit www.claudebistro.com.